Watch out, Netflix (NFLX) .
Buying Twenty-First Century Fox Inc.'s (FOXA) entertainment assets will make Walt Disney Co. (DIS) a bigger player in Hollywood. The deal's impact on Disney's overseas operations will be even more dramatic, however, helping it compete more effectively with Netflix globally.
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"Disney doesn't have a lot of international exposure now," said Moody's Investor Service analyst Neil Begley, who puts overseas revenue at 23% of Disney's top line.
"A lot of that [international revenue] is film and theme parks," Begley added. "On the television front, they've really not been able to crack a lot of these territories," Begley said.
A day after Disney announced the purchase of most of Fox's operations for $66.1 billion, including debt, its shares gained 0.6% to $111.25. Fox increased 0.3% to $34.99 on Friday.
Along with Twentieth Century Fox film and TV studios and related assets; cable networks including FX Networks, Fox Sports Regional Networks; and stakes in National Geographic Partners and Hulu LLC, Disney would add overseas distribution muscle.
Fox is trying to roll up the 61% of European satellite TV group Sky plc that it doesn't already own. Sky serves 23 million satellite TV households in the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy.
Meanwhile, Fox Network Group International has 350 channels in 170 countries. The company doesn't provide subscriber data for the international networks.
Star India has 720 million satellite TV viewers in India and more than 100 other countries. Fox's Tata-Sky partnership with an entity related to Tata Group has 12 million satellite TV subscribers in India.
"It really makes [Disney] a much more global company," Begley said of the transaction. If Disney closes the Fox deal and the remaining Sky shares are acquired, international would come to about 40% of Disney's revenues as it stands today. And if Disney reaps additional benefits from combining its properties with Fox, international sales could reach as much as half of its total revenue.
On its Thursday call announcing the Fox purchase, Disney mentioned $2 billion in potential savings from the deal, but did not put a number on the potential increase in sales from combining properties.
"There are all kinds of opportunities to grow revenue," Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger said. "One of the best opportunities is by using the intellectual property that we're buying and using the intellectual property-producing capabilities to simply create more product, serve consumers better both on a domestic and on an international level, and essentially grow our offerings to the consumer in multiple ways."
U.K. regulators have held up Fox's Sky deal, though the company said it aims to complete the transaction in the first half of next year.
Otherwise, the overseas regulatory reviews should not be "terribly burdensome," Pepper Hamilton LLP lawyer James Rosener suggested. "They are already part of a large conglomerate," he said. "It's going from one large multinational to another."
Fox's international assets could provide Disney with a platform for an overseas streaming video service, though Begley notes that in Europe and other markets, the cord-cutting that is pushing U.S. media groups to explore on-demand streaming services is less severe.
Disney would own 60% of Hulu if it completes the Fox deal. It could therefore follow the Netflix Inc. play book and bring Hulu to new countries, while creating original programming in local languages.
However, Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) owns 30% of Hulu and Time Warner Inc. (TWX) has a 10% stake. The partners would have to work out overseas licensing issues. Disney would also have to convince its minority partners to invest more in the business, or foot the bill itself.
And while Hulu has name recognition in the U.S., Begley notes that it is less well-known overseas.
Disney plans to launch a streaming service in 2019 under its own name. Begley suggested that the company could package its film franchises in a Disney-branded streaming services overseas, and bundle other streamed content under the better-known Sky and Star brands overseas.
"There is a strong possibility they try a Disney brand [streaming video on-demand] service not just for the U.S. but everywhere else," he said. "For everything else, they'll have brands that are already well-established whether it's Hulu in the U.S. or Sky and Star [elsewhere]."
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